22 FEBRUARY 2010
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Have you ever been caught out by fraud, or near fraud? Have you been taken in by web sites that say one thing and actually mean something else, not to one’s advantage?
I think it is true to say that we all (or at least most of us) have.
The rogues have infested the world of travel too.
Now it would seem obtaining an entry visa (where required) would be a simple task.
As the world of the internet expands and expands even the Embassies and High Commissions in London are getting into the act. One can recall huge queues in London’s Strand area outside a certain representation office. And stories of long waiting periods in other places out in the cold and wet.
All that has mostly gone, overtaken by either simple electronic registration, or at least a bright and reasonably hospitable waiting room.
But where there is business there is fraud, or at least sham ways of taking money off people.
The latest con is regarding visa applications.
Using Google, tap in the name of a country for which you wish to obtain a visa. You will find an inventory of offers.
Take the Unites States for example. An ESTA visa is free. When AERBT started to look into this matter there were a plethora of entries the ones at the top no more than simple advertisements disguised as Google entries.
This is the official Google response to an AERBT enquiry regarding misleading paid for entries.
“We have strict policies on what ads we allow on our sites. Our policies make clear that we do not allow ads for unacceptable business practices which includes the selling of free items. If an ad breaks our terms and conditions we will remove it and prevent it from reappearing.”
It is true that Google has cleaned up its act since our query. But it is still allowing misleading advertisements at the top of a search.
Before paying anything for a visa check very carefully on the Embassy web site. It is amazing what you can find. A Russian visa for a British subject actually costs £25.85 including VAT. On top of that a £40 fee goes to the outside agency that now handles all applications for Russia. Mother Russia never sees that money. And if you go through a handling agent yet another charge is made.
If any readers seeking a visa comes across application sites that break Google’s rules, or even the spirit of the rules, let Google know. And AERBT too. firstname.lastname@example.org
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